Reviews of The Journals
and Interviews with Henry L. Walton
Aether Chronicle April 2015
Dear readers, the most recent edition of the The Journals of Thaddeus Shockpocket, Entitled “Victoria” has been submitted for review. This most recent installment sees the Shockpocket family, scientists one and all, striving to win the English Royal Society of Scientific Research and Global Exploration’s new award to honour breakthroughs in all disciplines of science. The award is called the Victoria Medal for Scientific Discovery.
First, a little background on the Shockpocket family: for those of you who have not yet read the Shockpocket novels, Professor Thaddeaus Shockpocket is an explorer and inventor along with his wife Katherine. His son is called Sherlock, and his daughter is called Tweak. The Shockpocket family is known for their propensity for strange new inventions and ill-timed disaster! For example, five years ago ten-year-old Sherlock disappeared into the Amazon jungle while the family was on an expedition scouting for herbal remedies. Then, the following Spring, Katherine Shockpocket was lost in a tragic airship accident. The Shockpocket family airship ALBION 77 broke its mooring lines with Katherine aboard, and flew away.
Ultimately, Sherlock was found, and Katherine returned, so the family was reunited once again. However, these incidents, along with countless others, have caused the Shockpocket family of scientists to be somewhat discredited amongst the scientific community. This means the announcement of the new Victoria Medal holds special meaning for the Shockpockets, especially considering they were openly ridiculed at the ceremony to announce the entrants for the Victoria Medal by a competing scientist.
In pursuit of the Victoria Medal, Tweak Shockpocket immediately alights upon the idea to take the family’s new sea-faring vessel the Knock Less to Scotland to retrieve proof of the existence of Nessie, the Beast of the Emerald Loch. The Shockpockets already know that Nessie exists, having encountered her once before. The fact that the last time Tweak and Professor Shockpocket set out to find Nessie they ended up sinking their family plane Leonardo, losing their camera (thus losing the opportunity to photograph Nessie) and, finally, accidentally turning Tweak’s hair bubblegum pink, seems to escape this enthusiastic and indefatigable family!
Well, as you can imagine, dear readers, all manners of high jinx and hilarity ensues, resulting in the loss of the family boat the Knock Less, which forces Tweak and the Professor to take shelter in the same village inn they stayed in the last time they set out on an expedition to discover the Loch Ness Monster! However, one thing that this series has taught us is that the Shockpocket family is never defeated! And readers can be assured of a number of equally dubious yet wonderfully imaginative expeditions to follow, in the hopes of securing the Victoria Medal for a member of the Shockpocket family.
This wonderful series for young adults is filling up young people’s Kindles and I phone bookshelves faster every day! The Shockpockets present young readers with unique role models, men and women alike, who refuse to be defined by anyone else’s rules. The Shockpockets will win your heart with their imagination, their unique application of science, and their heart-warming family bond. This family bond is further explored in the book as the family pursues a lead on the location of one Reginald Shockpocket, Professor Thaddeus Shockpocket’s long-lost father, who disappeared during a solo expedition to discover the Yeti in the Himalayas 30 years ago.
One of the many wonderful things about the Shockpockets is that they think globally, rather than just locally. Their ideas and explorations are never limited to their own backyard. The Shockpockets will take readers on a journey through Kathmandu, Nepal, Africa, the Middle East, and many other exciting destinations. There will be stories about dolphins and unicorns, Elephant Stun Guns and Rabbit Catapults, and much, much more!
The resulting adventures leads the Shockpocket family to discover much more about themselves than they ever anticipated: secrets are revealed, bonds are rediscovered, families reunited, and wonderful surprise ending awaits readers with regards to the awarding of the new Victoria Medal!
Special Note: Henry Walton’s ALBION 77 was a finalist in the Steampunk Chronicle Readers Choice Awards for Best Children’s Steampunk Fiction in 2014, and it has been nominated again for the same award in 2015. Congratulations to author Henry Walton on his wonderful series The Journals of Thaddeus Shockpocket!
Aether Chronicle Interview – July 2015
Secrets of the Shockpocket Series...Unplugged!
In my recent review of The Journals of Thaddeaus Shockpocket Book 2, a book series that stocks the bookshelves of precocious children all across London, I noted the family members are unique role models who refuse to be defined by anyone else’s rules. Shortly after publishing the review, Shockpocket author, Henry Walton, contacted me to say that he was thrilled that I had picked up on the personal idiosyncrasies of the Shockpockets and wondered if other readers understood the back stories and messages in the journals. We agreed to do an interview so that Henry could expand on the story behind the story.
When you contacted me, you seemed mildly surprised that I commented on the Shockpocket family members’ unique personalities and their perseverance in spite of those. Why did that surprise you?
Well, first and foremost, I write the Journals of Thaddeaus Shockpocket to be a fun read and make people laugh out loud. When I started the series I did not set out to create a family of characters that exhibit what today would be labeled a collection of “learning disabilities” or any number of other current diagnoses such as ADD, ADHD, Autism Spectrum, and so on. But, as the stories evolved, the individual characters became more fleshed out and, to my surprise, the Shockpockets became a family of very unique individuals that keep their chins up in the face of adversity and never bend to the pressures of society to conform. In spite of the character evolution I felt the personality traits and their importance to the story might be lost in the overall story and humour.
If the Shockpockets lived today, how would they be described based on their unique personalities?
That is a great question. We, as a society, not only identify those people that we perceive as being outside of a narrow band that we call The Norm, we also create labels for those individuals. If Thaddeaus lived today, people would see that he is unable to concentrate on one thing at a time. In conversation, he jumps from topic to topic and is constantly coming up with new ideas and inventions. He is highly intelligent in several areas of science, but is unable to focus on just one. Today he would probably be labeled as attention deficit.
Sherlock appears to march to the beat of his own drummer and stays mostly to himself. He only wears kilts, he says, because he likes them. What he never confides is that the feel of cloth against is skin is highly irritating. He prefers to be alone in the library reading because too much noise overloads his senses and causes him stress. He is very focused on details and this attention to order makes him extraordinarily good at designing mechanical devices. Were Sherlock to be here today, he would possibly be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.
Tweak may be the character type that is easiest to identify. She is always spinning and dancing and never sits still. When she is happy, which is most of the time, she is on top of the world. On the other hand, when she is down it is best to stay away from her as her down times are dark indeed. She might be labeled as slightly Hyperactive and, given her mood swings, a bit Manic Depressive.
Katherine may be the most mainstream of the family. She is fairly level headed and is the rock of stability that the family can always fall back on. But even she might be labeled due to her soft spoken nature and preference to spend her days reading and studying other cultures. Her label would probably be Introverted.
Did society have similar labels for unique personalities in the time of the Shockpockets?
The Shockpockets lived at the end of the Victorian Era and into the Edwardian Era. Psychology was refining its definitions of personality traits and the medical community was developing a number of new diagnosis and terms, but these were not widely used in public and it would have been more likely for the personalities of the Shockpockets to have been labeled with street terms for their behavior.
Thaddeaus may have been called absent- minded and eccentric. Sherlock might simply have been called an odd duck. Tweak would probably have been called spirited and moody, and some would have said she had the fidgets. If Katherine were labeled at all, she might have been called shy and less than sociable.
So how do these four characters and their unique personalities play into the adventures and experiences of the Shockpockets and what is the back story you refer to?
These are four people that are pushed away from their peers because of they are outside of the norm. Thaddeaus is fired from the University after the unfortunate incident with his pet chimpanzee at the king’s birthday party and he is regularly ridiculed by other scientists, first and foremost his former college friend Wallace Bogglesworth. Sherlock is considered an outsider in his school in England and is probably better off for accidentally spending several years of his youth in the Amazon jungle as an adopted member of a local tribe. There, he was not held to the same standards as in his homeland. Instead he was held in high esteem for his house building skills and for introducing kilts to the tribe and this helped him grow into a confident young man. Tweak would rather get her hands dirty, create new inventions and fly about in an aeroplane or airship than take tea with other girls in the local village. And Katherine would rather stay in the study and read about other cultures than participate in the local women’s’ horticultural society.
In spite of not fitting in with the rest of turn-of-the-century society, they make innovative contributions to the world and enjoy the adventure that is life. The message of the story is relevant today for all of us. Many, if not most of us, have at one time or another been labelled, or are guilty of labelling others, as odd or dysfunctional. The message is to relax, be happy with yourself and enjoy this crazy adventure that is our lives. There is only one person like you in the universe and there will never be another.
Do you bring any personal experiences to the stories and personalities?
I suppose I do. We all probably know of people that exhibit these personalities, perhaps even ourselves. To some degree I am Thaddeaus. I have a very short attention span but love to learn about everything. I like to read, but if a book is thick and has a small type font, I will not even attempt to read it. I prefer to read short stories and that is, in large part, why The Journals of Thaddeaus Shockpocket is written in the format it is. Each book is only around twenty-five thousand words. Within the main story arc are several sub-stories, each one making up a single chapter. This is by design so that anyone can pick up the Journals and consume them in small bits.
As far as experience with others that exhibit personalities outside of the mainstream, I am happy to say I know countless people that fit all of these labels and more and I think they are all absolutely brilliant. What a dull world it would be without creative minds and unique characters.
In addition to making your stories shorter to be more accessible to those with short attention spans, are there any other tools or stylistic things you are doing in your books to assist those with learning disorders.
I was recently made aware of a font that is designed for readers with dyslexia. I understand that it is very effective and I am currently looking into having the journals printed in a second version using this font.
Any last thoughts?
I have said this many times and it still sums up my outlook on life and hopefully comes through in my writing. The world is absolutely brilliant. Difficult sometimes. Confusing often. But humorous almost always. Enjoy the adventure.
Inspiration Forum UK – May 2015
Are we talking chronologically or emotionally. Let’s just say I am old enough to have experienced a lot and young enough to still be amazed at the magic of this world.
Where are you from?
I was born in Seattle shortly after my parents moved there from England and I lived there into my 30s. Then I lived in California for a few years before moving to Minneapolis.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I earned my Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Washington in Seattle and started college with a focus on creative writing. Later, I switched to a technology degree and have spent my career working in industrial process automation, first as an engineer and later in marketing. My wife, children and I now live in Minnesota.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My most recent book, The Journals of Thaddeaus Shockpocket Book Two –Victoria, was launched in April. At the same time, I was named as a finalist in the 2015 Steampunk Chronicles Readers Choice Awards for Best Children’s Steampunk Fiction. Both books are enjoying success both in North America and Europe.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have been writing as long as I can remember. I still have copies of stories that I wrote in grade school. I love creating stories and crafting words to not only paint scenes but trigger emotion. It turns out that I do best at humor and the emotion I trigger most is laughter.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably in grade school. My teachers and parents always provided strong positive feedback to my stories and I realized I might actually be good at this thing that I do for pure escape and pleasure.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
After years of writing technical papers and marketing materials I just decided it was time to return to my first passion of writing fiction. I had recently lost my job and my wife suggested I take time off from the corporate world and write a book.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My style is very tongue-in-cheek. I want to make people laugh as they read about the ups and downs of life.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For The Journals of Thaddeaus Shockpocket, I wanted the writing to be first person so we could get a glimpse inside of Thaddeaus’ head and understand the world through his eyes. Having the stories come from his journals just made sense. The first book ALBION 77 is named after the airship that plays a central role in the story. The second book, VICTORIA, is the named for the medal for scientific achievement that the Shockpockets hope to win in order to validate their legitimacy as true scientists.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The series is meant to be humorous and make people laugh out loud at the misadventures of the Shockpockets but there are several messages within the stories. The astute reader picks up on the fact that, were they alive today, Thaddeaus would be labeled attention deficit, Sherlock would be obsessive compulsive, and Tweak would be hyperactive. Even Katherine would probably be labeled as a bit introverted and bookish. But in spite of their unique personalities and some of the calamity they cause, they all persevere and live life their way. These are stories of empowerment and a family that thrives because it is true to its personal beliefs.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The stories take place in the real world of the turn of the century, so the Shockpockets interact with historical people, places and events that occurred at that time. Most of the inventions Thaddeaus comes up with have some scientific basis to them. That is the engineer in me coming through. I have replicated some of his creations, such as the thistle and wild flower hair coloring, just to see if they work. Overall, the stories are historical fantasy, but I think the interactions of the family with the world and within themselves are very realistic.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I would be lying if I denied that several of the characters are based on my family. My father was English and my mother American, like Thaddeaus’ parents in the books, and my father was the picture of an English gentleman and adventurer. I grew up hearing tales of his time as a pilot in the R.A.F. during World War II and was always surrounded by my parents’ English friends telling stories. My father was also an adventurer and a bit absent minded sometimes getting our family into a number of predicaments, a few somewhat hazardous. But we always had fun and I grew up loving the vast variety of learning experiences the world presented to us. Like Thaddeaus, I like to invent and have come up with several useless inventions of my own. I have also traveled extensively around the world.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am currently reading The Ocean at the End of the Road by Neil Gaiman.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
A little over a year ago I was introduced to the writings of Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I think he is an absolute master wordsmith. Typically, when I read a book, I move through it rapidly catching the gist of the story. But from the first page of The Shadow of the Wind, I found that he makes every word count and I spend time soaking in each sentence. It takes me longer to read his books because I lose myself in the words and the pictures he paints on every page.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I am currently wrapping up book three in the Thaddeaus Shockpocket series and hope to launch it by year’s end.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
If I could make a living at writing full time I would definitely make it my sole career however, until that time arrives, I still need my ‘day job’.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I am quite happy with my latest book and don’t think I would change anything.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I don’t actually recall how it started as it always seems to have been there. Not too long ago, I found a box filled with my schoolwork from grade school and in it were stories I wrote at that time. The teachers’ notes on the stories always stated that I was a talented writer and should stay with it. Perhaps that positive feedback nurtured my desire to write. And, of course, my mother was a writer and she always encouraged me to write.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I don’t know if I would call it a challenge, but it is definitely time consuming to fact check dates and historical events that occur in the world of the Shockpockets. Even though the stories are complete fiction and are full of imagined inventions and events, I try to make the world they take place in as accurate as possible. I never state what year the stories occur in within the books, but every story is mapped out in my office on calendars for the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds. For example, in book one, the Shockpocket’s fly over Wimbledon and photograph the tennis tournaments from their airship. I needed to verify the earliest dates of the Wimbledon matches to ensure they fell within the time line of the story. The up side of this is that I have learned a great deal about the details of this time period.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I have several favorites but, if I need to name one, it is Neil Gaiman. I completely lose myself in his stories and the alternate realities he creates and that is the best experience when reading a book. His stories are layered with messages and are, quite simply, a good read.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I could probably write my stories without traveling but I think that fact that I have been to the places the Shockpockets travel to helps me picture them better and hopefully comes through in the stories. I have been fortunate in my life to travel through Southeast Asia, China, South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. My time in those regions and with the local residents has given me an appreciation for locations and cultures that I hope comes through in the stories.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
All of the chapter art is by William Kevin Petty. I especially like his whimsical style and ability to capture the feel of the stories. He also designs the covers.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The rewriting and editing process are the most time consuming part of writing books. The story ideas and first drafts come quickly but then there are days of rewriting a page or even a sentence until it flows the way it should. The fine tuning phase takes months until my editor forces me to stop and give him the manuscripts. Then he makes his comments and that starts the final round of rewriting before we finally go to print.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Nicola Tesla. He was a man out of sync with his times and, in many ways, ahead of them. It would be great to bring him to present day and see what he makes of the world we have created.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Favorite films: Princess Bride, Stardust, Monty Python In Search of the Holy Grail
Favorite television shows: Historical Documentaries, Murdoch Mysteries, Sherlock, Pinky and the Brain
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
ALBION 77 Review
The Aether Chronicle – March 2014
The Journals of Thaddeaus Shockpocket is a rip-roaring adventure for young readers. It incorporates all the elements commonly found in Steampunk Literature: old world England, coupled with all manner of “modern” invention, the spirit of discovery, highly memorable characters, and seemingly insurmountable odds only overcome by ingenuity and enterprise. For Example, the main character, Thaddeaus Shockpocket, world traveller, sometimes Professor, always inventor, quotes: “It is the beginning of the twentieth century and discoveries are occurring every day. Electricity, wireless radio, and even winged flight make these magnificent times to be a scientist. Some talk of potential for flight into space, and maybe even the means to travel through time. Anything is possible. Tweak and I strive day after day in search of discoveries and inventions that will make a better world and, I am very pleased to say, we’ve found several that do.” Thaddeaus Shockpocket offers readers an alternate world: a world of ancient monsters, airships, underrated yet lovable inventors and highly intelligent, fearless females. In short there is everything for the intelligent, adventure-loving youth to enjoy! While the Shockpockets do present the image of a cohesive and close-knit family unit, they face a number of obstacles to family bliss.
For example, Professor Thaddeaus Shockpocket is the classic bumbling inventor. He is absentminded, whimsical, and easily distracted. He also tends to overlook pertinent details: for example, the correct amount of helium to add to an airship, particularly if one’s wife is currently aboard said airship. It turns out, if you pump too much air, the ship takes off, and without an experienced pilot there is no telling where or when the ship will ever come down! But this doesn’t seem to faze Thaddeaus. He proceeds to his mid-day cup of tea. Of course, this will be one more thing to add to the ‘To Do List”, right up there with finding lost son Sherlock, who Thaddeaus accidentally traded to a local tribal chief in the Amazon five years ago. In the mean time (the time between conceiving a way of recovering lost family members, and actually putting said plan into action) Thaddeaus Shockpocket and his twelve- year old daughter Tweak spend their time inventing gadgets in the family laboratory.
Tweak (real name Tesla Wendy Katherine Shockpocket) is a lovable young inventor-to-be, keen on following in her father’s footsteps, who can often be found expertly calculating trajectories or devising back-up plans when misfortune strikes. She first delights readers when her inherited clumsiness accidentally turns her hair a shade of bubblegum pink! She and her father have many adventures without wife Katherine and son Sherlock, owing largely to a certain amount of absentmindedness and general bad luck. However, it is impossible not to love the Shockpocket family, and to wish to be a part of their intriguing inventions, the testing of which is always humorous and full of surprises. While Thaddeaus and Tweak wait for word from lost wife, and mother Katherine, the inventing continues. Thaddeaus and Tweak make plans to search for Sherlock in the deepest, darkest Brazil.
Readers are in store for a hell of a ride as the Shockpockets utilize their combined genius in pursuit of a dual goal: being reunited as a family once more, and inventing inspiring gadgets that serve to make the world a better place. Up to and including a machine that transforms the malodorous odour of bodily gas into scents much more pleasant!
…open a new tin of biscuits (Tweeks favorite), brew yourself a cup of Ceylon tea and settle down for one rollicking adventure after another from the Journals of Thaddeaus Shockpocket. Enjoy. I did, and I'm not even a kid. Its tickety-boo.
The "inventions" and "gadgets" depicted in the book are simply brilliant. I enjoyed the characters, the humor, and the hilarious situations in which the Shockpocket family find themselves.
This book makes you feel that ANYTHING is possible if you are creative and put your mind to it!
Okay! This book is the most fun I have had in months! The author uses matter of fact hilarity to tell his story
Entertaining, full of puns, word play and an off-beat sense of humor. A great read, and am looking forward to more Shockpocket family (mis)adventures!
Fascinating and Imaginative!
Matter of Fact Complete Hilarity
A delightful romp through a wild imagination
Fascinating and Imaginative
A most delightful adventure
Funny, clever, whimsical